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The Iditarod: A Homeschool Unit Study


The Iditarod - Commemorating How Alaskan Sled Dogs Saved a Community

The materials presented here are meant to provide teachers (both at home and in the classroom) with a plethora of ideas and resources to pull from. You'll find suggested readings, living books, lapbooking materials, printables and extensive links to background information.

What Are You Looking For? - What led you to this lens?

Appetite and Attitude - Iditarod Champion Lance Mackey

Where Do I Begin - Ideas to help integrate other subjects into your unit study

Use the suggestions here to help you build an elaborate unit study that encompasses all subject areas.

  • Art Connections

    1. Study the artwork of Pacific Northwest Indians and Inuits.

    2. Create a family totem pole using an Alaskan native animal to represent each family member.

    3. Carve Arctic animals in ivory soap.

    4. Create watercolor paintings of Balto, Arctic Wolves, and other Arctic animals.

    5. Do a crayon resist watercolor painting of the Aurora Borealis or northern lights.

  • Science Connections

    1. Investigate the geograpy & climate of Alaska.

    2. Watch a movie about the Arctic or dog sledding... Iron Will, 8 Below, etc.

    3. Write a report about an Arctic Animal. Younger children may do copywork or sort pictures of Arctic Animals.

    4. Go on a guided snow shoe walk with a naturalist or Forest Service volunteer.

    5. Check the weather conditions at the checkpoints.

    6. Do a body fat experiment.

  • History Connections

    1. Learn about the Serum Run.

    2. Add the Serum Run and inaugural Iditarod to your Book of Centuries.

    3. Research how the musher prepares for the race, including the supplies needed, clothing, food and equipment.

    4. Make a model of a dog sled with popsicle sticks and label the parts of the team.

    5. Scan the newspaper for articles about the Iditarod.

  • Math Connections

    1. Print musher stat sheets to record the progress of each musher.

    2. Create probability graphs for this years participants.

  • Language Arts Connections

    1. Create a lapbook.

    2. Write a letter to a musher.

    3. Write a letter to the Alaska Chamber of Commerce.

    4. Do research on Arctic animals. Younger learners can do research along side an older partner and do copywork.

  • Social Studies / Multicultural Connections

    1. Make a map of Alaska. Use the map to follow your selected mushers along the course of the Iditarod race.

    2. Learn about each of the checkpoints along the race course.

    3. Research the native tribes of Alaska and create report in any format you prefer (video, pictures from National Geographics, sample of food, or make a tribal craft).

    4. As a family, enjoy a real sled dog ride or a virtual one.

    5. Learn how the musher prepares for the race, including the supplies needed, clothing, food, equipment, etc.

    6. Learn about Alaska Malamutes, the most ideal dog suited to sledding sports. Also learn about dog care on the race and the training of the dogs from pup to adult sled dog.

    7. Be a virtual musher by playing this interactive, online game.

Build Your Library - Great books and other resources to supplement your Iditarod study.

All About Alaska - From the history, culture, art and natural phenomena... you'll find it here.

As you build your unit study, consider lessons on the state of Alaska, its native peoples and dog sledding!

  • Alaska and the Inuit
    Created to assist educators and students in curriculum supplements related to the state of Alaska, it's natural phenomena, and its native peoples.
  • Alaskool: Alaska Native Curriculum and Teacher Development Project
    Visit Alaskool to learn about Alaska Native history, education, languages, cultures, including curriculum, stories, reports, free fonts, and much more.
  • Alaska Native Knowledge Network
    Resources for compiling and exchanging information related to Alaska Native knowledge systems and ways of knowing
  • Native Peoples of Alaska
    The Alaska Native Heritage Center collection showcases all of the indigenous cultures in Alaska. There are tools, watercraft, clothing, pieces of art, drums and more.
  • Alaska Kids
    The official website of the State of Alaska.
  • Alaska History and Cultural Studies
    Provides students, teachers and others interested in the state access to a rich source of facts and viewpoints about Alaska and its history. There are six UNITS, each encompassing an important theme or historical period.
  • A Brief History of Alaska Statehood (1867 - 1959)
    The following brief history of Alaska statehood considers the region in the political and imaginative contexts of (contiguous) United States history and emphasizes certain themes revealed in this effort.
  • A Guide to the State of Alaska
    Whether you are looking for Alaska history, the state bird of Alaska, or the best places to visit in Alaska, the answers are just a click away.
  • Alaska Student Information
    Alaska's state capital, motto, nickname, bird, etc.
  • Alaska Science Explained
    Within this site, you'll be able to learn how to build your very own rocket, discover the mystery of the Aurora Borealis, learn about remote mapping and enjoy an over abundance of Scientific Links!
  • Alaska Dog Mushing History
    From Babiche Webbing to Kevlar Runners - An Intro to Alaska Dog Mushing History
  • Dog Mushing :: Official Alaska State Sport
    Everything you wanted to know about dog mushing.

Maps & Geography Resources

  • Cabela's 11"x17" Iditarod Trail Map Poster
    Download the Cabela's 11"x17" poster pdf and print as many copies as you need! Comes with accompanying checkpoint information in a Word document for your convenience.
  • Alaska Maps
    State of Alaska maps from Alaska Tour & Travel. Detailed maps you can print out and use to follow your mushers along the Iditarod.
  • Alaska Map Collection
    Base, outline, reference and topographic maps.
  • World Atlas
    For any of you who are still struggling to find a good outline map of Alaska, here is a link to the best one I have found. The main site also has other more detailed maps.

Do You Lapbook?

Creative expression and application

A lapbook is basically an educational learning tool made from a file folder. They can be done at the close of your unit studies to highlight key points the kids have learned - a place to glue projects or little books they've made for the unit, be based solely on a book your child has just read or help reinforce skills or concepts. It can be used to document what your children have learned or even to display and refer back to.

Printables & Lapbooking Resources - Iditarod and Alaska themed lapbooking materials

If you enjoy lapbooking, then this list is a must! The following links will help you create fabulous lapbooks.

Eye on the Trail - Sign up for the official Iditarod newsletter

Share & Collaborate

This link provides the opportunity to collaborate with others who share an interest in the Iditarod. Many have followed the Iditarod with their students in the past and can share 'what works' and 'how to'.

  • eIditarod Yahoo! Group
    The home of the eIditarod project private teacher mailing list. You can find all the files you need on the project teacher's page. Yahoo! Groups offers free mailing lists, photo & file sharing, group calendars and more. Discuss hot topics, share

What Is Your Impression? - Please take a moment to leave a little blurb... I value your feedback.

MarthaDobson on September 05, 2014:

Not only is the subject matter interesting information for students to learn the race is a great teaching tool to teach the skills students need in all sorts of areas. I used it in middle school to teach word processing skills, to practice skills in reading nonfiction, poetry, evaluating and summarizing, mapping, and more. Have you looked at the Education Portal of the Iditarod official website? It contains many lesson plans and ideas, as does the blog for the yearly Iditarod Teacher on the Trail. For the 2015 race, this teacher is a middle school teacher. The blog also has archives of past Iditarod Teachers' on the Trail lesson plans and posts.

Eva Varga (author) from Oregon on May 26, 2013:

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@anonymous: Great idea! When I first taught this unit, we were fortunate to live in Central Oregon and were able to go on a ride with a dog sled team near Mt.Bachelor. It was an awesome experience. :)

anonymous on May 26, 2013:

On occasion I'd be asked to visit schools with our dogs. It is something I would recommend, many mushers are open to the idea. There is always the possibility of attending a race as well and seeing something in person, at least on a small scale.

Michelllle on April 02, 2013:

White Fang is one of my favorite books.

Eva Varga (author) from Oregon on May 01, 2012:

@iijuan12: Thank you! I will add you as well. :)

Shannon from Florida on April 30, 2012:

I just wanted to let you know that I'm featuring your fabulous lens on my lens about Alaska: .

Shannon from Florida on March 18, 2012:

This is GREAT! It will come in handy when we study Alaska in a few weeks. Thank you so much!!! Blessed and liked.

eclecticeducati1 on November 24, 2009:

Great lens! I'm going to lensroll this to my Iditarod Lapbook lens.

anonymous on January 28, 2009:

Thank you for so generously sharing! I have two homeschooled boys who are so excited about doing the eIditarod!

anonymous on January 28, 2009:

Thank you for all the information. I am homeschooling 4 children, 3rd through 9th grade. We are doing the Iditarod project for the first time and the kids are really excited.

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